Google Drive ToS Brouhaha is Tempest in a Teapot

by Ron on April 25, 2012

IStock_000000385270XSmallYesterday, right after Google Drive came out, an outcry sounded in social media circles as people read the Terms of Service and interpreted them to mean that everything you put on Google Drive belongs to Google.

Before we act rashly however, please take a moment to click through and read the ToS (and understand it applies to Google Drive and other Gooogle Services like YouTube as well). I’ll wait.


Good, so let’s take a look at the section that got the social internet up in arms:

When you upload or otherwise submit content to our Services, you give Google (and those we work with) a worldwide license to use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works (such as those resulting from translations, adaptations or other changes we make so that your content works better with our Services), communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute such content. The rights you grant in this license are for the limited purpose of operating, promoting, and improving our Services, and to develop new ones.”

Well, on its face it sounds bad, but is it really? I asked Google and this is what it had to say in an “official statement.”

As our Terms of Service make clear, ‘what belongs to you stays yours.’ You own your files and control their sharing, plain and simple. Our Terms of Service enable us to give you the services you want — so if you decide to share a document with someone, or open it on a different device, you can,” Google’s statement said.

The statement continued: “The first sentence in that statement refers to this paragraph from our Terms of Service, under the section called “Your Content in our Services”:

“Some of our Services allow you to submit content. You retain ownership of any intellectual property rights that you hold in that content. In short, what belongs to you stays yours.” [emphasis added].

So to clarify, it doesn’t give Google any special rights to the content people put on Google Drive, it just gives Google permission to post and share it to cover itself legally under copyright law.

But just to be sure though (and not simply take Google’s word for it), I asked attorney Rich Santalesa, who is Senior Counsel at the InfoLawGroup, LLP, a law firm specializing in privacy, security, technology, media, advertising and intellectual property law.

And here’s his take: “In short, Google doesn’t have a license to run riot with your stored files and materials, but they do have a limited right to access it within the provisions provided.”

So there you have it, Google’s clarification and an IP attorney’s reading of the ToS. It’s nothing to worry about, people. Google is not trying to surreptitiously get ownership of your content.

Can we relax now, please?

Cross-posted on by Ron Miller

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